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1910.29(b) – states the specific requirements for the minimum and maximum height of guardrail systems.

  1. For guardrails, the General Industry regulations are now aligned with the Construction rules. The requirement for the top rail is 42-inches, plus or minus 3-inches. Additionally, the new rule states that openings between top and midrail can be greater than 19-inches.

  2. The rails must be capable of withstanding force of at least 200 lbs. applied in a downward or outward direction within 2-inches of any point along the top edge of the rail.  At this loading, the top rail may not deflect to a height of less than 39-inches above the walking-working surface.

  3. Midrails, screens, mesh, intermediate vertical members (no more than 19-inches apart), solid panels or other equivalent members, must be capable of withstanding without failure, a force of at least 150 lbs. in any downward or outward direction, and any point along the intermediate member.

  4. Also prohibits the use of steel or plastic banding for top rails or midrails in guardrail systems, due to the potential of sharp edges. However, steel or synthetic rope is permitted.


1910.29(d) – this section establishes the criteria and practices for “Designated Areas”, which in the final rule in 1910.21(b), defines as “a distinct portion of a walking-working surface delineated by a warning line, in which employees may perform work without additional fall protection”.

A DESIGNATED AREA WARNING LINE – must meet all these requirements:

  1. Is a rope, tape, wire, or chain, warning employees they’re approaching an unprotected edge or side.

  2. Has a minimum breaking strength of 200 lbs.

  3. Is clearly visible from a distance of 25-feet, and anywhere within the designated area.

  4. Needs to be erected as close to the work area as possible, while still allowing the task to be performed.

  5. Be installed so that its lowest point, including sag, is not less than 34-inches and not more than 39-inches above the walking-working surface.

  6. Be supported so that pulling on one section of the line between supports, will not result in slack being taken up from other sections, resulting in the first section line pushing/falling to below 34-inches.


1910.29(f) – this section establishes the criteria/practices for handrail and stair rail systems, addressing height, finger clearances, surfaces, stair rail opening, handholds, projection hazards, and strength.

  1. Handrails must be not less than 30-inches, and not more than 38-inches high, if there are 4 or more risers.

  2. Requires there is a finger clearance of at least 2.25-inches between handrails and any other object (such as a wall).

  3. Stair rail systems must be at least 30-inches high, if installed before January 17, 2017, or no less than 42-inches high if installed after that date.

  4. No opening in a stair rail system can exceed 19-inches in its least dimension.

  5. Employers must ensure that handrails and top rails of stair rail systems, are capable of withstanding without failure, a force of at least 200 pounds applied in any downward or outward direction, within 2-inches of any point along the top edge of the rail.


1910.29(i) – establishes the criteria/practices, for ladder safety systems permanently attached to fixed ladders, or immediately adjacent to ladders.

  1. Workers must be able to climb up or down with both hands free for climbing. And the system does not require them to continually hold, pull or push any part of the system while climbing.

  2. The employer must ensure that the connection, between the system and the attachment point to the body harness or belt, does not exceed 9-inches in length, in order to limit the length of any fall.

  3. Employers must ensure that the ladder safety systems and their supports, are capable of withstanding without failure, a drop test of 500 pounds for a distance of 18-inches, without hitting a lower level.


1910.29(k) – the employer must ensure workers are protected from falling objects (1910.28(c) also relevant).

OSHA defines falling object protections as the need to ensure:

  1. Toeboards used for falling object protection are:

    • Of sufficient length where erected, along the exposed edge of the overhead walking-working surface, to protect employees below.

    • Have a minimum height above the surface of 3.5 inches, with a gap of no more than 0.25-inch.

    • Capable of withstanding without failure, a force of at least 50 lbs. applied, in either any downward or outward direction, at any point along the toeboard.

  2. Paneling or Screening considerations if materials are piled higher than the toeboard:

    • To be installed from the toeboard to the midrail of the guardrail system.

    • Also installed to the top rail, if items are piled higher than the midrail.

    • Must have openings small enough to prevent objects from falling through the opening.

  3. Canopies if used for protection below: employers must ensure canopies used for falling object protection, are strong enough to prevent collapse or penetration by falling objects.

  4. Barricading Area Below into which objects could fall, prohibiting workers from entering the barricaded area, and keeping objects far enough away from the edge to help prevent them from falling to a lower level.

  5. Equipment Tethers or Lanyards: though not specified in the ruling, a beneficial proactive measure is to tether or use lanyards on tools or equipment, to prevent them from falling to a lower level.

Important things to know, review more articles OSHAs

OSHA’s – 1910.22 General Requirements

OSHA Recognized 3-Levels of Skill- Work at Height

Important Definitions per OSHA

OSHA’s – 1910.140 Personal Fall Protection Systems

OSHA’s – 1910.29 Fall Protection Systems & Falling Object Protection- Criteria and Practices

OSHA’s – 1910.28 Duty to have Fall Protection & Protection from Falling Objects

OSHA’s – 1910.30 Training Requirements

OSHA’s – 1910.23 Ladders- Fixed and Portable

The OSHA 1910.29 Standard for Guardrails — Important Things to Know

When workers are operating at heights of four feet (1.2 meters) or more, anyone below that area will be exposed to the risk of people or objects falling. Any employee in the lower area must wear head protection that complies with OSHA standards.

The OSHA 1910.29 regulation specifies measures to prevent people or objects from falling from work areas. This includes the installation of toeboards and screens to prevent objects from falling but, more specifically, the use of guardrails that will help to prevent accidents. However, OSHA railing requirements are very specific, and you have to adhere to these standards to avoid non-compliance.

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OSHA Guardrail Requirements 1910 You Must Follow

According to 29 CFR 1910.29, the top rail of guardrail systems must be capable of withstanding a downward or outward force of at least 200 pounds that is applied within two inches (5 centimeters) of the top edge. This force must not cause the top rail to deflect to a height less than 39 inches (99 cm) above the walking or working surface.

Other elements of the guardrail (such as mid rails, solid panels, and intermediate vertical members) need to withstand a lower downward or outward force of 150 pounds without failure.

The standard height of an OSHA-specified guardrail is 42 inches (107 cm), although 3 inches (8 cm) above or below this is acceptable. The top edge can in some cases be higher than 45 inches (114 cm) providing that other criteria are met.

A guardrail needs to include other components if there is not a wall or parapet with a minimum height of 21 inches (53 cm):

  • mid rails that are installed midway between the working or walking surface and the top rail, so the gap between the horizontal members is not greater than 19 inches (48 cm)
  • screens and mesh that can cover the entire area
  • intermediate vertical members that must be no more than 19 inches (48 cm) apart.

All guardrails need to have a smooth surface, so they cause no injuries to workers and don’t catch on clothing. Top and mid rails have to be at least 0.25 inches (0.6 cm) across and must not overhang the terminal posts if they are likely to pose a hazard. Hand rails can be of various materials but steel or plastic banding is not permitted and there must be a minimum clearance of 2.25 inches (5.7 cm) from other objects so they can be gripped firmly

Ensuring Compliance with Professional Help

The regulations regarding guardrail requirements are complex and can vary depending on where they are used (open edges or stairways). They can also be changed so it’s difficult to keep up to date with the latest regulations.

It’s important you know exactly what is currently required because it’s easy to become non-compliant by omission. To avoid that happening and to ensure your workers are kept as safe as possible, you need to engage professional help.

Ignoring the problem is not an option and at Shine On Anchors we have the experience and knowledge to ensure you are always on top of safety needs. Get in touch and we’ll make sure all your guardrails and other safety systems are completely compliant and that your workers are protected from falls.

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